City Desk

Informer Was Outbid for Disputed Contract

The latest development in the saga of whether the Washington Informer was unfairly cut out of a city contract offers a look at how the city's newspapers compete for government ad buys.

This news comes from an affidavit filed by Joseph Giddis, the director of the city's Office of Contracts, in the Informer's contract appeal. The dispute, which inspired a rally in support of the paper, centers on whether the Informer's editorial focus on Washington's black residents means that it doesn't meet the definition of a "newspaper of general circulation," making it ineligible to receive a lost property ad contract that eventually went to the Washington Times.

Giddis' affidavit in the contract appeal reiterates the city's position that the Informer pitched itself as the best way to reach the ciy's black residents, rather than residents of all races. But it also reveals how much the four papers competing for the contract—the Informer, the Times, the Post, and the Examiner—bid on the contract.

The Washington Business Journal's Michael Neibauer points out that the Informer's bid might not have been a very good deal for the city. The Times' bid cost the city 54 cents per reader, while the Examiner's would have cost 75 cents per reader and the Post's would have cost 84 cents per reader.

Even considering the preferential bid treatment that the Informer receives as a Certified Business Enterprise, however, its per-reader price would come to a whopping $1.76—almost a dollar more than the next most expensive paper.

Johnny Barnes, the Informer's attorney, is undeterred. He says the difference in price doesn't matter, arguing that the Informer's readers are more likely to have lost property than readers of the other papers. "[Giddis] had a singular focus, he had blinders, and he didn't look at the facts," Barnes says.

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